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improving library email marketing

Powerful Things You Can Do to Convert Cardholders

This is the second in a two-part series on how to improve the metrics that really matter for library marketing emails. To read the first part on how to improve your library email click-thru rate, click here.

The other important metric to measure for email library marketing is the conversion rate. Conversion rate refers to the percentage of people who received the email AND end up taking an action, such as checking out an item, registering for or attending a program, or using an online service.

Conversion rate really is the gold standard for the success of any email campaign. Your goal should always be to get people to act!  For every email you send, you should be able to state in one sentence what it is you want email receivers to do when they read your email. Then you need to follow-up and track the results to see if your email led to the desired action. If it doesn’t, you need to adjust your email strategy.

Here are the tips I’ve discovered, through years of email marketing success and failure, that work to drive up the conversion rate.

Do deep research to find the right target audience. Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint the best audience for your email. It takes a lot of research. But this is an incredibly important step.

My library recently sent an email to promote a service we’ve had for many years called Career Online High School. COHS is a course that helps people who never finished high school to get their diploma and career certification. Finding the right target audience for this message is problematic. My library doesn’t ask cardholders if they also have a high school diploma, a job, or any kind of career skills. My library also doesn’t keep anything more than superficial demographic statistics on the people who already graduated from the COHS program. I don’t really know who my prime audience would be. I can’t say with accuracy what motivates a person to take this 18-month course. So, I had to do some deeper research.

I found some local studies that laid out the high school diploma concentration in geographic regions inside my library’s service area. This helped me narrow the email audience down to a few neighborhoods within my county. I also asked staff to help me create a subjective profile of past COHS students. I asked the staff to guess at the COHS program applicants ages. I asked if the applicants identified the part of the city they live in. I asked if the applicants typically have a library card when they sign up, or if they have to get one (the service requires you to be a cardholder). Finally, I asked staff if the applicants ever talked about how they first heard about COHS. The staff helped me craft a cluster that I thought *might* work.

We sent this message to about 18 percent of our cardholder base. That’s a wide net. But it worked in this instance. Five percent of the people who opened and clicked on the message are now in the process of filling out applications and completing paperwork to join the class. I consider that a huge success! The staff who run the COHS program told me they were incredibly pleased with the number of new applicants.

Sometimes, your targeted email audience will be obvious. And sometimes you’ll have to ask some questions and dig around to determine your audience. Try not to guess. Base your decisions on the information available and you’ll find success.

Experiment to determine your goal conversion rate. When I started sending emails to my cardholders, I had no idea what success looked like. Through experimentation, I set a goal. Each email must create a ten percent or higher bump in circulation, program attendance, or usage. If the email falls short of these goals, it’s not worth my time or my cardholders’ time.

This isn’t an arbitrary number. It’s a number I’ve landed on after many emails and lots of calculations. For my library system, a ten percent increase in any one of these numbers is significant enough to warrant the effort it takes to create and send an eblast.

You’ll set your own optimum conversion rate. Your optimum rate will depend on the size of your cardholder base, your staff’s capacity to handle increased circulation, program attendance, and library visits, and your overall library goals. But you must have a goal.

Make your call to action clear and persuasive. You’ll notice the call to action on the Career Online High School email is very direct. When you create a call to action (CTA), say the words “I want to…” before the CTA. In the COHS email above, that sentence ends up being, “I want to apply to Career Online High School.”  If that sentence is short, direct, and easy to follow through on, you’ve got a good call to action. Some other good CTA’s are:

Register for this program.

Put this event on my calendar.

Place a hold on this book.

Get reading recommendations.

I think you get the picture. In my emails, I put the CTA inside a button or box so it draws the eye and is intuitive for clicking.

Change focus of your email from the library to your cardholder. To persuade cardholders to act on your emails, stop talking about how great the library service is and to instead talk about how it will change or improve the life of your customer. You can do this even with a simple collection-based email.

We do this with our book recommendation service. We might be tempted to say, “Our Librarians are book experts. We give the best reading recommendations anywhere!” And we do! But by slightly pivoting our message, we show how this service helps our cardholders. Our re-focused sentence is: “You’ve got a lot to do. Let us help you pick out a good book to read.”

See how subtle it is? But it really works. You’re just changing all the “we’s” in your copy to “you’s.” By pivoting the focus of the message from how great your library is to how much you can help the cardholders, you increase the chances that cardholder will take an action.

Include humans in your emails. When you create your email, using a photo that includes a human face or faces expressing an emotion. Your cardholders will look at the faces and identify with one. That face will humanize your message. They’ll be more likely to take an action. We use one or two human faces in most of our email marketing campaigns.

Now, there is some science to suggest that human faces negatively affect conversion rates, particularly if the faces don’t align with the email’s target audience. So, you must choose the photos carefully. For instance, this email promoting our Memory Cafe accurately represents the audience and the activities at the cafe (there is often dancing!). And it worked to drive people to this recurring program. If you make a thoughtful photo choice, you’ll see good results.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!

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This Advice Will Boost Your Library Marketing Email Click-Thru Rates

A few months ago, I wrote a post about email vanity metrics. Those are the statistics like open rates that make us feel good. But if we’re being honest, they’re relatively meaningless.

The meaningful metrics like click-thru and conversion rates are harder to obtain and must be tied to your library’s overall strategy to provide any meaning. Humans naturally like doing the easy stuff! But it’s the hard metrics that make our work valuable and worthwhile.

So, I want to spend the next two posts sharing some of my strategies for improving your library email click-thru and conversion rates. I learned most of these tips through trial and error and a lot of failures. Remember that failure is okay! It teaches us lessons that lead to success.

This week we’ll focus on improving your click-thru rates. The click-thru rate is the percentage of people who, after opening your email, will click on a link. Here’s what I’ve learned about how to improve that rate.

Promote the best possible content. Don’t send an email to promote every program or service your library carries. Choose your promotions strategically. Put the best content into your emails to make it more likely that your cardholders will click on your links.

For collection-based marketing, make sure the books you choose to promote in your email are buzz-worthy, newer, have a great cover (you’d be surprised how much the cover art affects click-thru rates!). For program promotions, of course you’ll choose events that are fun and interesting. But the programs you promote through email should either in demand by your cardholders or unavailable at any other organization or community group in your area. If you are asked to promote new or existing services like databases, movie streaming platforms, or reading recommendation services, pick the best of parts of those services to promote. For example, I recently did a three-month series of emails promoting the Great Courses section of the Kanopy video platform. Instead of trying to promote the entire Great Courses section, I promoted three specific video series–yoga, family history research, and weight loss. Promoting parts of a service makes it easier to target your message. Speaking of which…

Target your message. Click-thru rates skyrocket when the message you send is targeted to the audience most likely to be interested in it. Sounds like common sense, yes? But I still hear from lots of libraries who are afraid to stop sending emails to all their cardholders. If you have the technology to segment your audience, you should do so. Try to target your email messages to about ten percent or less of your existing email list. Don’t worry if that number seems small. If that audience is getting an email about something they’re interested in. you’ll see results in big click thru rates and engagement.

Here’s my strongest example. A few months ago, my library started a short, monthly eNewsletter targeted specifically at young professionals. This newsletter goes to about 300 people once a month. For my library, an email sent to just 300 people is really tiny… that’s only about .10 percent of our total email list. But it pays off! This email gets huge engagement numbers because those 300 people are really, really interested in the contents of the email. In October, the click-thru rate was 37 percent. I wish all my emails were that successful.

Give yourself time to create and revise your emails. This is the maybe the most important step. Plan your email schedule as far in advance as possible. Set aside time to write the copy. Then, walk away.  Come back later-preferably another day-and look over your work. Revise it. Walk away again. Repeat this process until the copy and structure of your email is as good as it possibly can be. Too many of us (myself included) rush through the creative process.

If you recognize that you are the kind of creative person who feels like he or she can never release anything into the word because it’s never perfect enough, set some boundaries. Give yourself a deadline for when you’ll send the email up the chain for approval and tell your supervisor when to expect it so he or she can hold you accountable. That will help you break the endless cycle of revision!

Write like a Buzzfeed blogger, not like a librarian. Write to entice. Make the text interesting. Use conversational language within your emails. Write short sentences. And don’t write too much! Less copy is better. Make your cardholders curious to find out more and then give them the means to do it by doing this next step, which is…

Embed clickable links in more than one location within the email. My personal rule of thumb is to include a link to the book, program, or service about three times in varying places within the email. This gives your cardholder the chance to act at various points as their eyes or mouse or thumbs roam your message. It also increases the chance that they’ll be able to act, if they so choose, by making it super easy for them.

Next read: How to improve your library email marketing conversion rate!

Finally, would you be so kind as to answer a question for me?

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!

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